Monday, February 27, 2017

Smoking Habit

Wes has taken up smoking lately, and it doesn't look like he's gonna quit.  It's sort of become an addiction, this whole barbecue thing.  I think I've eaten more barbecue in these few months than I've ever eaten in my life - it wasn't really something that I grew up with.  Going out for barbecue was pretty much limited to Pat & Oscar's, and my entire family of five would share a rack of ribs with pizza and bread sticks on the side.  The world of barbecue is a big one, and I'm only now learning to appreciate it all.  All of the effort that Wes puts into smoking his meats only makes me appreciate it more when we buy it, whether it's at a truck in Altadena or at Yelp's #1 restaurant in America in Inyo County, California.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Jamaican Me Curry and Rice?

I was given a black-and-white Jamaican cookbook from 1990 by a wonderful Jamaican Chinese woman who works with me at school.  She truly is one of the most generous people - aside from slipping me pieces of sour plum candy and ginger tea packets, she's also donated a very nice trampoline to my kids.  We share not only our love for students with special needs, but also our love for cooking and food.  Of course in our talks, we got on the subject of Jamaican food.

She and her husband are originally from Jamaica, and they preserve their heritage by making Jamaican food once in a while.  I got really interested, and one day, she brought me a can of pigeon peas, coconut milk, and this brightly colored cookbook with the word JERK emblazoned across the top.  She tabbed page 112, the recipe for Rice & Peas.  Well, if she was making it that easy, it would be embarrassing to not rise to the challenge.  Although it took me two months to get to it, I finally made Jamaican food with Wes!

How we decided to make goat curry was really random.  During one of our usual visits to the Chinese market, I saw some goat meat, chopped into big chunks, all wrapped up and ready to go.  It didn't look the most enticing, bones bared, skin folds, and all, but I thought about how much I liked mutton and grabbed it.  It went into the cart and almost back out just before we got to the checkout line - really... do we really want to cook this right now?  We kept it as my heart rate spiked.  When we heard the "beep" after it was scanned, I knew: there was no going back.

So this goat sat in the fridge for a few days.  I kept thinking about what to make...Korean goat stew? Goat ragu?  When I did a quick google search for goat stew recipes, the first one that came up with a Jamaican curried stew recipe.  I immediately remembered the can of pigeon peas and the JERK book.  Opening the book to the index, I found "goat" (among "grapefruit juice and rum" and "gizadas") and lo and behold, there was a "Curry Goat" recipe right there!

The book is quaint.  I think they've come out with a new and updated version by now, but it's by Helen Willinsky, and it is written in the first person.  When you read it, it's almost like a wise, kindly, and spunky Jamaican woman is telling you exactly how she likes to do things as she stands looking over your shoulder in the kitchen.  There are also a lot of personal stories and background about Jamaican culture in the book.  I really enjoyed sitting down to read all the random things inside--there's even a hand-drawn map of Jamaica at the beginning.  But, I wanted to make the goat curry in the Instant Pot.  I didn't have the time to sit there for hours and stew the goat, taste it, adjust it, stir it, and add to it.  I do that with my oxtail stew noodles, and I already know that that is quite tedious and time-consuming.  So, with a little help from Wes, we adapted Helen's curry goat recipe for the Instant Pot.  The results were awesome!  And of course, we made some rice & peas with that can of pigeon peas to go "wid it."